I remember when I was in elementary school, my brother came home and said the principal broke a paddle over his bum. In fact, he broke 2.
I understand how my parents got there. They both grew up in a society where corporal punishment was the norm.
But when it happened at school, I kind of wondered why they could do this to my older brother.
Once I had children, I had to wrestle with my upbringing. My parents spanked. I was pretty sure with my precocious little daughter, I’d be a spanker, too. But luckily (for her and for me), I married a pacifist. And I turned into one myself.
When my oldest daughter was getting ready to enter kindergarten, I found out that where we were living (Florida), corporal punishment was still allowed. I was shocked. I had been a teacher in New York City, and we never touched children.
There are still several states that allow this practice (see the map below). Once I had children, I was a little worried that we’d end up in a state where I’d end up suing the school where my children went if they got smacked around.
Hitting children is a remnant of the slavery era: Slavers hit slaves to show who’s boss and to make them follow orders. The states that allow corporal punishment are primarily states that are former slave states.
Who falls victim to this force? The ACLU says it’s overwhelmingly children of color and students who are special needs. Those kids who don’t fit the mold.
Currently, nineteen states allow for corporal punishment in the public school system. Interestingly, the majority of these states are in the South and are commonly referred to as the “slave states” or the Bible Belt. In these states, corporal punishment is administered in a racially and ethnically biased manner which targets African American, Native American, and Special Education children.
On November 22, Secretary of Education John B. King sent out this letter, appealing to those states currently allowing corporal punishment to change their stance.
Violence begets violence.
And no amount of beating will make that violence go away.
You go, Mr. Secretary. I hope they listen.